6 Ways to Build Excitement at Your Fundraising Auction

Procuring great items for your benefit auction is crucial to getting your donors’ attention. But, don’t stop there. Consider these additional strategies to build and maintain excitement at your fundraiser.

1. Start With a Good Theme

Choosing an interesting theme for your gala results in several benefits. It makes your event stand out among supporters, focuses your decision-making, engages attendees with interactive elements, and provides a cohesive feel for the evening.

Use your theme to develop a color scheme and reference in your communications. Encourage attendees to “dress the part” or provide props and a photo booth. If possible, offer items in your auction that match the theme. Check out our list of theme ideas.

2. Enter Attendees Into a Prize Drawing

Include a chance to win a vacation (or other great prize) in the purchase of the ticket to attend your event. Then, sell additional raffle tickets at the door to increase the chance of winning. This will enable you to increase your ticket price and sell more tickets. It also gives ticket buyers a reason to show up and stay for the duration of the event.

Just be sure to follow all the rules and regulations for running a raffle.

3. Move the Live Auction Up in the Agenda (Or Shorten Your Event)

Many organizations put the live auction at the end of the event to provide an exciting finale. But if your event has additional segments (e.g., speeches, dinner, silent auction), it can be a very long time from check-in until the bidding starts. By then, many donors will be tired and may even leave for the evening.

If you expect the live auction to be the major revenue generator for your event, arrange your agenda to maximize participation. You could put your auction before dinner, for example, or coach speakers to “get to the point” (always good advice).

4. Stress the Impact of Donations and Circle Back

It is important to stress the impact of donations prior to the auction so donors feel excited about giving. Such an impact can be communicated via a simple video or a guest speaker who benefited from the donation.

Rather than going in depth with a long speech (see 2), tell a short and engaging story before the bidding. Then, have the auctioneer reference the story throughout the auction. Provide the auctioneer additional statistics and anecdotes to sprinkle in so their material stays fresh and interests donors.

5. Cap the Number of Items for Sale

It may seem on the surface that more items means more revenue. However, having an endless menu of items in your silent or live auction will fatigue donors and stifle competitive bidding.

Restrict your items to your very best. This ensures that bidders will be excited to learn about every item. It also forces multiple people to bid on each item. Bidding war = big donation. A rule of thumb is to offer one item for every four guests.

If you have lots of small-ticket donations, like gift certificates to local restaurants, consider grouping them together in a “Buy It Now” board to save table space and better feature more profitable items.

6. Hire a Professional Auctioneer

A professional auctioneer can take your auction event to the next level. Professional auctioneers provide entertainment for your guests, market your auction items in the best light, and promote competition among bidders. They also have a wealth of knowledge about benefit auctions you can draw on as you plan your event. We’ve observed that hiring the right professional auctioneer is easily worth the investment of a few thousand dollars.

We recommend you consider a TravelPledge Certified Professional. TravelPledge Certified Professionals pride themselves on transparency and integrity to ensure that your organization makes the most money possible.

Alex McDonald is the Director of Customer Experience for TravelPledge. He is passionate about helping nonprofits exceed their auction goals.

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